What the Words (of L&D) Mean – Guest Post by Jay Cross

Introduction by Brent Schlenker

In a series of two blog posts Jay Cross shares a few words/phrases and defines them as only he can. I’ve known Jay for a long time and he’s a big part of our industry. This simple, straight forward, and light hearted look at the meanings of words is a fun summer break from the usual instructional design content our guest bloggers share. I know you’ll love it. This is part 1.

Word blockWhat the Words Mean by Jay Cross

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’”  Alice in Wonderland

Beta. Not ready for final release. Life is perpetual beta. Most things should be declared beta because they need to change with the times. Besides, people complain about releases; they give advice on betas.

Bipolar thinking. Classifying things as black or white when they’re really shades of gray.

Blink. Rapid cognition, AKA gut feel. Making snap judgments, often valid, on the basis of a few data points. Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in a book of the same name.

Boil the ocean. Trying to cure all problems at once, often with a single tool. Don’t even try.

Career Limiting Move. Refers to any incident that puts a roadblock in your career path. “Jack spilled coffee on the boss. It was a major CLM.”

CASE. Copy and Steal Everything.

CAVE People. Colleagues Against Virtually Everything.

Chunking. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Complexity. It’s a nonlinear, interconnected, unpredictable world, and you will never figure it out.

Corporate dyslexia. The inability to read the writing on the wall.

Course. Rigid unit of learning, generally expressed in hours or days, and ‘led’ by an instructor. Opposite: ‘Just enough.’ Vendors use the course as a unit of measure for pricing their offerings.

Doggie treats. Incentives, targets, measurements, and other directional signals. These drive organizational behavior. Coined by Art Kleiner in Who Really Matters.

eLearning. Meaningless term. Originally, the convergence of learning and networks. Use Learning instead.

Entropy. Disorder. Closed systems decay over time. Margaret Wheatley has proposed that this is why scientific managers are so hung up on control.

Experiential learning. Learning by doing. “The best learning happens in real life, with real problems and real people, and not in the classrooms.” Charles Handy.

Explicit knowledge. Knowledge that’s easy to communicate. (Opposite of “tacit knowledge.”)

FOMO. Fear of missing out.

Flow. Why you cannot step in the same river twice. Nothing is permanent; everything flows. Also, the euphoria that accompanies flowing in sync with your reality.

Free-range learner. Someone who learns as he or she chooses. Often discovery learning.

Frog boiling. Apocryphal science experiment. Drop a frog in a pot of boiling water; he jumps right out. Put a frog in a pan of cool water and slowly heat it on the stove; the frog never senses a big change in temperature and stays in the water until poached.

Grades. Random numbers used by academics to exert social control over students.

Hedonic adaptation. Habituation. After a while, anything seems ordinary. Also known as the Hedonic treadmill.

Informal/formal learning. Formal learning is based on a curriculum developed by someone other than the learner. Informal learning is self-directed and unofficial – over the water cooler, at the poker game, asking the guy in the next cube, collaborative problem solving, or mimicking an expert. All learning is part formal and part informal.

internet time. The accelerated timeframe of the new economy brought on by eBusiness and the Internet. In 1995, a year of Internet time was said to equal seven years of calendar time. Time has sped up since then.

Instructional design. A systems approach to designing a learning experience. Traditional instructional design is under attack for fostering slow development, waterfall design, a printed-paper mindset, and insufficient attention to informal learning.

Intangibles. Assets you can’t see or touch, e.g. social capital, processes, reputation. In the last twenty years of the 20th century, the valuation of the S+P 500 flipped from 80% tangibles to 80% intangibles. This is why ROI methodologies that don’t value intangibles are bogus.

Job. Increasingly obsolete way of packaging work.

Job aid. Cheat sheet. Checklist. Process map. Training embeds knowledge in workers’ heads; job aids build the knowledge into the job. It’s a vital trade-off for assessing how to improvement performance.

Knowledge Management. Whatever you want it to mean.

The Law of Diminishing Astonishment. Over-stimulation dulls the senses and increases expectation.

Learned helplessness. A puppy spends a while in a box with a glass ceiling. When the glass is removed, he’s still trapped in the box because he has given up trying. Starting point for Marty Seligman’s work on positive psychology. Mistakenly used as theory of how to break down terrorist prisoners.